High oil prices bring focus on hot money - Emirates24|7

High oil prices bring focus on hot money

When the price of oil hit $139 a barrel last week it led the evening news in England, which suggests that the relentless rises of the past year have finally hit the public consciousness.

There have been protests about the high price of petrol in both the UK and France, and politicians are now waking up to how serious sustained high energy costs could be economically and to their electability. So it is little surprise I have started to pick up rumours that British and American officials are colluding on ways to lower the price.

They are focussing on the hot money that has moved into oil from commodity and investment funds, looking at ways to drive the speculators out of this market. Speculators have undoubtedly contributed to the recent rises as they have pumped money into oil in order to avoid the tumbling US dollar. But the extent to which investment funds are to blame for prices at $139 is uncertain. Recent research by Barclays Capital shows commodity index funds have a total value of $225 billion, which is comparatively small when compared to the enormous scale of the oil industry.

This will not stop the US and UK governments picking on the investment funds, largely because it is the only thing they can control. Of more use would be much greater political emphasis on longer-term solutions to high energy prices.

We could start with aggressive conservation strategies, a carbon-trading scheme in the US and incentives to encourage the development and purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles.